The question that should be concerning most people about the Qantas takeover rumour is: How safe are my frequent flyer points?

Some might also be wondering about what game their industry super fund is up to if they saw the Weekend Oz story suggesting Industry Funds Management could be one of the players making up the 50% Australian content in the consortium, but it’s the fate of frequent flyer points that might concern more people.

Qantas does very nicely out of the FF points earned on credit cards, but the points earned by people actually flying are the cost that hangs around the Qantas balance sheet – perhaps.

There’s an interesting discussion on the Flyer Talk forum from the last time Qantas fiddled with the points that leaves me just a little confused. (Qantas defers counting FF points revenue until the points are used, but let’s remember that it counts Airbus compensation payments as profit as soon as they are nominally available. No, it doesn’t necessarily make sense.)

With last year’s example fresh in our minds of how Qantas downgraded the FF system, requiring more points to achieve most of the flights you’d want to take, well might we wonder what Macquarie Bank and Texas Pacific might do to maximise profit and minimise cost. You’ve been warned.

Meanwhile Steve Creedy and Robert Clow in the Oz reckon the local barbarian and the Texans could be ready to table their Qantas bid within two weeks. They say due diligence is already being conducted.

Which raises a question about how informed this market might be and whether the Qantas board is trying to go down Peter Wilcox’s most regrettable Mayne Pharma path of auctioning off the company in secret. CEO Geoff Dixon was hosing down expectations in Singapore, but if the Oz is right and the data room is open, traders should be told.

Regarding the speculated IFM involvement, several industry funds have long been partners in Macquarie investments here and overseas. Qantas would be no different.

And while it suits some of the government ideologues and retail competitors to cast aspersions about industry funds having unionist baggage, they’re really only in superannuation to make money. And how that’s supposed to be done was nicely explained in Alan Kohler’s column on Saturday.

Peter Fray

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